Who Invented The Recorder?

Who Invented The Recorder

The recorder is one of those instruments that most people will have heard of and played at some point in their lives. It is a common first instrument for music teachers to teach their classes to play, and a great gateway instrument for children who enjoy playing.

Compared to some of the other musical instruments that exist, the recorder is often viewed as one of the easier ones. This is mainly because school teachers teach children how to play easy songs or nursery rhymes, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

But it takes real skill to play the recorder successfully and you can actually achieve qualifications in playing the recorder. 

The recorder is one of those instruments that lots of people have heard of, but very few know a lot about. Most people’s knowledge of the recorder is limited to an elementary school lesson, and because of this, not many people know about the history of the recorder.

Pretty much every musical instrument that exists has a lot of history, and today we’ll be looking at that of the recorder and answering the question ‘Who invented the recorder?’. 

What is a recorder?

Before we look at the history of the recorder, we must establish that we are on the same page about what a recorder is. The recorder is, of course, a musical instrument and it subscribes to the woodwind family.

It is often compared to a flute as both the recorder and the flute operate fairly similarly. The main difference between the recorder and other types of flute instruments is the placement of the holes. 

The recorder has both thumb and finger holes. The thumb hole is placed for your upper hand, while there are also 7 finger holes lining the recorder. Three of these holes are placed for your upper hand, and the other four are placed for your lower hand.

To use the recorder, the player must blow into the windway of the recorder. While blowing air into the windway of the recorder, the player must also simultaneously use both of their hands to hold the recorder and play the melody using their fingers on the holes.

Basic songs can be played on the recorder using just the holes and blowing into the windway. However, more advanced songs will require specific breathing techniques and playing patterns to be able to play them successfully.

Now that we’ve established what a recorder is, let’s take a look at the history of this musical instrument. 

The history of the recorder

So now that we’re on the same page about what a recorder is, let’s take a look at where this musical instrument comes from. Like many musical instruments, the recorder has its roots in ancient history.

Throughout the years this instrument has been prominent in lots of different cultures, but has been particularly popular in folk music and culture.

The recorder or as it has been formally known, the vertical flute, has been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 15th century that it started to become the recorder that we know today. 

During the renaissance period in the 15th and 16th centuries, the recorder as we currently know it became incredibly popular. During this time the recorder was the primary musical instrument used during live performances, and people loved going to watch others play the device.

However, the popularity of the recorder was short-lived and by the 18th century, the popularity reserved for the recorder had been transferred to the flute. For a couple of centuries, the recorder continued to be in the background, overlooked by the flute, but it would soon face its revival. 

In the 20th century, the recorder once again rose in popularity as it was rediscovered by people researching historic musical instruments.

Following its rediscovery, several musicians chose to use the recorder as their primary instrument, including dutch musician Brüggen. He was the first major musician to play the recorder, but many others quickly followed in his footsteps. 

Not long after this, the recorder was given another lease of life as it was quickly adopted into the education system. People observed that the recorder is a fairly easy instrument to play, and teachers saw that this could be a good way to encourage children to activate their musical side.

While the recorder has started to become a less popular instrument in some schools, many still use the recorder to introduce their children to creating music. It is clear that the recorder has a very rich history, but who can we actually credit for inventing it? Let’s take a look. 

Who invented the recorder?

As the recorder is such a historic instrument it can be difficult to try and attribute its invention to one person.

The instrument has been around for centuries and because of this, it is impossible to trace it all the way back to the person who invented the first recorder. That being said, the majority of modern recorders can be traced back to one man. 

The recorder had its first popularity streak in the 15th century, and it once again became popular in the 20th century.

This rise in popularity began in 1919 as the English instrument creator Arnold Dolmetsch used the 18th-century baroque design of recorders to begin producing them on a mass market. 

This coincided with popular musicians choosing to use the recorder and introduced it into the household once more. 

While Dolmetsch cannot be credited with inventing the recorder, he is one of many names that can be attached to the history of the recorder. Without his interest in the recorder during the early 20th century, it is likely that the recorder may not have made the resurgence that it did.

So while we cannot credit him with inventing the recorder, he definitely deserves acknowledgment for his contribution to the success of recorders. 


In short, it is difficult to say exactly who invented the recorder because it can be traced back to ancient times. That being said, the increased popularity of the recorder since the 20th century can be traced back to one man.

That means that it is Arnold Dolmetsch that we have to thank for the reinvention of the recorder.